Bill Roden, attorney, lobbyist and former state lawmaker, told the House State Affairs Committee this morning that he was among the original co-sponsors of Idaho’s first civil rights law in 1961, which covered only discrimination based on race, creed, color and national origin. Over the years, additions included sex, and then handicap, later changed to persons with disability. Also, a statute of limitations was added to the law, and the requirement that before civil action, a complaint must be filed with the Idaho Human Rights Commission. The commission’s focus, he said, is negotiation and mediation to resolve complaints.
Roden highlighted the provisions in the existing law that exempt religious organizations, and “make it clear that religious organizations can make preferences for members of their own faiths. There is no restriction on the beliefs that may follow. I think that the protections have been shown to be adequate. I have heard it expressed that pastors will not be able to speak freely from their pulpits on matters of public importance. That is just an absolute untruth.”
Roden said as to his own background, due to his father’s employment, he attended high school at a Japanese-American relocation camp where he was the only Caucasian in the 9th grade, and there was just one other in the 10th grade. He also shared that he has a gay son. “Idaho has a history of tolerance,” Roden told the committee. Idaho was the fourth state to give women the right to vote, he said. “That was a vote against discrimination, and Idaho was a leader in that.”